Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killer Prophet


On October 26, one week after the murders, Frazier's court-appointed attorney, James Jackson, announced that Frazier was not sane, and that his act may have come as the result of head injuries he had received in an auto accident six months earlier.   Jackson had been in contact with a psychologist, Dr. David Marlowe, for the purpose of assessment, and Marlowe had seen Frazier on four separate occasions.  He reported that Frazier did not think or act normally.

Without commenting on whether this might be due to taking drugs, Jackson said he would hold a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in reserve.  However, he would begin his defense with an innocent plea, based strictly on the facts.   He believed that Peter Chang had a shaky case and he claimed that Frazier denied being involved in the murders.  At the moment, an insanity defense was not in Frazier's best interests. 

Jackson told reporters that he had learned that on Sunday, private investigators hired by his firm had turned up evidence that raised several questions.  In a shed near where Frazier had lived they found an orange backpack loaded with supplies and a .45-caliber pistol.  This was not the weapon that had been used to shoot the victims.  In addition, the original statement made by the DA's office that they had found Frazier's fingerprints on a typewriter in the Ohta home was unfounded and no evidence had turned up in Mrs. Ohta's stolen car that incriminated his client.  As far as he could see, the prosecutors did not have much to go on.

Nevertheless, Chang intended to go to the grand jury Tuesday to get an indictment.   He said he had as many as 25 witnesses, but he ran into a glitch when Dolores Frazier balked at testifying against her estranged husband.

Frazier was brought in for his preliminary hearing, which was continued for two days to give the grand jury time to consider the case.   Chang went ahead without Mrs. Frazier.

Dolores was escorted to court by the defense's private investigator, to sit in the spectators section.    Frazier turned to smile at her.  She returned his smile.   He seemed to reporters to be relaxed, contrary to his previous demeanor in court.  At one point he called out to his wife and said, "It's all right, baby."

Jackson asked for bail; the judge denied it and ordered Frazier to remain in the county jail.  On October 28, the grand jury returned a true bill, indicting Frazier on five counts of murder.  The next day he entered his plea of innocent.  The judge imposed a gag order to prevent information from leaking to the media.  A trial date was set for January 25, 1971.  That proved to be highly optimistic. 

On January 9 in jail, Frazier slashed his arm with a razor and was taken to hospital for stitches.   Ten days later, Jackson announced that he would modify Frazier's plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity.  The judge appointed two psychiatrists to provide a sanity assessment for the court, and the trial date was postponed.

Jackson petitioned for a change in venue, even as the county worried about the costs of the trial in light of what was going on in L.A. with the Manson gang.  The judge ordered the proceedings to take place closer to San Francisco, in Redwood City.


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